Your Pain is Your Fault: What Women Are Told by Their Doctors

Your Pain is Your Fault: What Women Are Told by Their Doctors – National Pain Report

“There’s nothing wrong with you.” “Your only problem is that you’re fat and lazy.” “You’re too pretty to be sick!” “You brought this on yourself. Your pain is your fault.” These are some of the surprising, disturbing and bizarre things that women were told by their doctors, according to an online survey of over 2,400 women in chronic pain conducted by National Pain Report.

Three out of four women said they were told at least once by a doctor that they’d have to learn to live with their pain. Over half said a doctor had told them they didn’t know what was wrong with them.

In their written comments, many women indicated their doctors were often frustrated by their inability to diagnose and treat their pain.

  • “Your symptoms don’t make sense or have any relation to your condition.”
  • “You know there’s no cure for the illness you think you have, so why bother seeing a specialist to get a diagnosis?”

Other women said they were belittled or even mocked by doctors – who often dismissed their pain as imaginary or a ruse to get narcotic painkillers.

  • “I don’t want to hear anything more about fibromyalgia. It’s not real.”
  • You are crazy, nothing is wrong with you.”

Then there were the unconventional suggestions – some of them bizarre – that doctors had for women to relieve their pain.

  • “You can use thoughts to change your gene expression and cure yourself.”
  • “You have a broken spirit, try going to church.”

Some women feel their doctors focus too often on their appearance – using that to judge the degree of pain they were in.

  • “You are too pretty to have so many problems.”

Several women learned coping strategies to deal with this. Some started bringing their husbands and boyfriends to their doctor’s appointments. Others would purposely not “dress up” when they saw a doctor in order to be taken more seriously.

It’s well known that a positive attitude and good social support is essential for minimizing chronic pain, so these statements from doctors would definitely worsen in by battering a woman’s self-image and self-respect. Often, such encounters with doctors leave pain patients not only with under-treatment of their pain, but also leave them feeling worse.

Many of us pain patients leave our appointments feeling more hopeless than hopeful, and more helpless than helped.

Not all of the comments about physicians were negative. Several women said they were very happy with their current doctor, but finding the right one was often a case of trial and error.

See the complete survey results at

10 thoughts on “Your Pain is Your Fault: What Women Are Told by Their Doctors

  1. leitis23

    Reblogged this on Then Everything Changed and commented:
    I was shocked when I first experienced this and felt hopeless after hearing it over and over. You never think going to a Dr is going to make you worse, but many do. This is a good study and article to prove to anyone yet to find the right help that what you are going through is, unfortunately, “normal.” There is nothing wrong with you, go find a better doctor.


  2. fangboner1

    I have heard everyone of these. It was actually why I walked away from pain management, it would be great if I could get pain management so I could work but I was either over medicated or blown off completely.


  3. Lynn Lambert

    Those examples and stats are horrifying! It makes me more grateful to have found a doctor who knows all about chronic illness and pain and to have access to a fantastic pain clinic. Of course I had my share of unbelieving doctors before finding “the one.” There’s been so much development in understanding the science of pain the past decade, it’s unbelievable that so many GPs are still so ignorant about it.


  4. abodyofhope

    What an excellent awareness piece! I feel like the last 10 years just flashed before my mind as I read each of the reasons doctors brush women off. Almost all of them applied at some point. And don’t forget: “You are too young and pretty to be so sick” as they chuckle at your hospital chart at how adorable the whole situation is…
    Anyone who has a chronic illness has lived this and anyone who hasn’t should read this. Then they will better understand why we are so adamant about spreading awareness.


  5. Jan Groh

    Reblogged this on Oh Twist! and commented:
    Sadly all too true, too many women are dismissed as either “just depressed” or histrionic despite being in very real pain. (Much of it invisible on scans in those with Ehlers-Danlos). See the shocking results of a National Pain Report survey. Surely we can do better!


  6. catryn

    I feel very blessed to have found the Dr. that I have for my arthritis and cerebral palsy. Our first appointment started like this: “Hello. My name is Kathy and you are the first Dr. I’ve seen in eighteen years…” I’m pretty sure I had his attention from there, and he’s been a real gem since. I’m getting occupational and physical therapy, we’re doing tests to find out whether I’m right and have arthritis or whether my pain is from my cerebral palsy adapting as I age, he signed for me to have a permanent accessible parking pass since I’m in danger during the winter and he even took my needle phobia seriously, having the nurse in his office–whom I immediately liked from the moment we met–be the person to do any necessary testing using a butterfly needle. He also checked what I was currently taking (3x 2 tylenol arthritis and the occasional advil arthritis pain–dialed back the tylenol which somehow made it work better; made sure I was taking the advil properly and encouraged me to use that if I’m going out), made adjustments which have helped me stay mostly comfortable while we wait for results. I had my Dr. horror stories in childhood, so I can definitely empathize with the fact that those do happen. I’m just relieved that I am getting so much excellent help now.



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